Shia LaBeouf, Jai Courtney…patrolling a post-apocalyptic wasteland
“MAN DOWN” My rating: C
92 minutes | MPAA rating: R
There’s enough to admire in Dito Montiel’s “Man Down” that the film’s final reveal — a big fat slice of narrative cheese — feels like even more of a con job than it already is.
Montiel’s screenplay (with Adam G. Simon, who came up with the story) offers no fewer than six different “realities” for its Marine protagonist, Cpl. Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf).
The first of these realities unfolds in a post-apocalyptic near future. Here Gabriel and his Marine buddy and best friend Devin (Jai Courtney) pick their way through the ruins of an American city. Bearded and dirty, they are looking for Gabriel’s young son John, who may be the captive of a group of feral survivors.
There are flashbacks to Gabriel’s peaceful home life with his wife Natalie (Kate Mara) and little John (Charlie Shotwell). Gabriel will soon be shipping out, and he spends as much time as possible with his son. They even come up with their own military-style code words for “I love you”: Man Down.
Other passages are devoted to Gabriel and Devin’s basic training under the demanding Sergeant Miller (Tory Kittles), a sado-maso experience that will turn them into efficient fighting men.
One of the movie’s realities takes place in a dusty Marine outpost in Afghanistan where Gabriel is being counseled by Peyton (Gary Oldman), a military shrink. It appears that Gabriel has undergone a traumatic experience — and yet another “reality” depicts the day that Gabriel and Devin’s unit was ambushed by enemy fighters.
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Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney and Sebastian Koch
“A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD” My rating: D (Opening wide on Feb. 15)
97 minutes | MPAA rating: R
“A Good Day to Die Hard” hits the trifecta.
Actually, I was looking forward to the latest in the perennial series about NYC cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) who seems always to find himself in over his head with one crisis or another.
His last outing, 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard,“ was a superior action film, thanks to the effective direction of Len Wiseman (of the “Underworld” franchise).
But “A Good Day…” finds the suddenly-ham-fisted John Moore in charge, and the thing is so goshawful from the first frame that I was tempted to get up after 10 minutes and call it a night. Alas, professional responsibility kept me seated.
At least this “Die Hard” is relatively short.
Skip Woods’ screenplay (his previous credits include the execrable “A-Team” and the barely better “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) begins with John McClane saying goodbye to his daughter at an airport. Apparently his estranged son Jack has gotten into some legal problems in Russia.
Once in Moscow John witnesses a terrorist attack on a courtroom where Jack (Aussie actor Jai Courtney) and the billionaire Russian dissident Komarov (Sebastian Koch), are on trial. Turns out that far from being a criminal, Jack is a CIA agent assigned to rescue Komarov from the inside. (Why Komarov is important to the US is never explained. Get used to it.)
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